Friday, May 15, 2009

Independence Days #1

Maybe you've gathered by now that I really admire Sharon Astyk and what she writes over at her blog. Given all that I've read on environmental and food matters in the past few years, I think she's generally spot on when she talks about how we need to make changes in our lifestyles in order to live more reasonably in a low-petroleum future. I also think that her discussion of domestic issues -- the very fabric of our lives, whether we choose to ignore them or not -- offers a valuable perspective in the larger environmental and economic arenas.

Last year Sharon started something she called the Independence Days Challenge. Based on the idea set out by Carla Emery in the Encyclopedia of Country Living, this challenge asks us to spend each week planting, harvesting, and preserving food as well as otherwise stocking up for hard times, learning new skills, and generally learning how to make do with less in a way that is satisfying. I found the idea to be a good one, though I didn't really have time last year to jump into it with so much else going on.

Not that this spring is much quieter! But Sharon has revived and somewhat simplified the challenge, and since my Preserving the Seasons year is ending, I think this would be a good time for me to take on this new challenge and see if it will nudge me a little further down the road I want to travel. So for the seven categories Sharon has suggested, here's my report for the week:

1. Plant something. Oh yeah, I was all over this one this week. I put in
green beans, summer savory, pac choi, more lettuce, zucchini, watermelon, nasturtiums, sunflowers, more carrots, basil, broccoli (regular and Chinese), and more flowers at the garden shared with the Southern Belle and her family. At the Renaissance Man's garden, I added more herbs and flowers.

2. Harvest something. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I had a small first harvest from the Southern Belle's garden:
small handfuls of lettuce from last year, a scattering of baby spinach leaves, a few tiny radishes, a lone scallion from last year, sprinklings of dill and cilantro, and the usual nettles and lambs quarters. (I took only a little and left plenty for the family to enjoy.)

3. Preserve something. I gathered a bunch of nettles together and hung them to dry for tea.


4. Reduce waste. I washed out the plastic bags used to bring home produce so that I can reuse them at farmers' market time; saved an egg carton for the Lady Bountiful's egg CSA; reused a couple of paper towels used to pat dry washed lettuce (yes, I know a fabric towel would be better); saved egg shells to bake and crumble for the garden; kept on eating the vegetable curry I made last weekend (for a potluck that didn't happen) to use up a good number of last year's preserved vegetables, despite the curry not turning out as well as I'd like.

5. Preparation and storage. Checked the canner and my stash of jars, lids, rings for canning; organized the lids and rings a little better; sorted through remaining jars of preserved food from last year and rearranged it so that I stand a better chance of using it up.

6. Build local food systems. Happily, this will be a relatively easy one to keep up since I'm busy all the time with the work to get Local Roots up and running! Pulled together minutes from the meeting; contributed ideas to developing producer guidelines; gathered a little more information on some of the marketing ideas we have.

7. Eat the food. This really never is a problem for me! But since I've got the Renaissance Man visiting again for another weekend, I've had added incentive to work through some of the preserved and fresh foods I have around. So... made a delicious potato salad with fresh asparagus and dill; savored that rhubarb-raspberry coffee cake; enjoyed grape juice and herb teas with breakfasts; plodded through the veg curry for lunches, often with canned peaches and fresh salad greens.

Once I start thinking about each of the items, two things happen: I find I've done more than I realize, and I also find there's more I can do. So I think this will be a good nudge to get me going a little further down the road of growing and preserving food, making do, and doing more with less. It gives a good focus to my home economy and the work I do to keep myself well-fed and satisfied. And though I know absolute independence is not the goal (it's certainly not desirable), I think this will help me wake up a little more to some of the areas in my home economy that could be improved.

So join me if you like -- it's worth a try!

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